At LINC Foods we are always looking for ways to strengthen the local food system, create or enhance opportunities for small farmers, and connect what we consume in Spokane to what we also grow. Our newest project in this vein is going to be craft malted grains for local craft breweries, distilleries, home-brew stores and bakeries.
What is craft malt and why are we going to make it? Craft malt is one of the most important raw materials needed to make great tasting craft beer, right next to fantastic northwest grown hops! Malting is the controlled process of sprouting cereal grains, primarily barley, which activates the grain's enzymes, breaks down protein and also converts the starch into fermentable sugars. Brewers and distillers can then extract the sugars and flavors to make wonderful craft beverages. We are launching a local craft malt house because it fits our mission and just makes sense. Central Washington is already the primary source for some of the best hops in the world, and we are in prime grain growing territory in Eastern Washington. We also have some great farmer-members of LINC Foods which are looking for ways to have more of their grains used locally and contribute to something they can experience and be proud of. This makes sense when you realize that 85-90% of Washington grain crops are exported annually, and after the farmer delivers their grain to the elevator, they have no idea where it goes. We want to continue to be part of creating profitable ways to keep more of our crops here by re-building local supply chains and connecting those that grow crops with those that process and consume them. Currently the vast majority of the malt used by our local breweries comes from outside Eastern Washington, and it is made by only several very large companies.
I am currently in Winnipeg Manitoba at the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Center for their two week intensive malting program, along with a great group of classmates from eastern to western Canada, all over the US, and Brazil. We are learning everything we need to know to be craft maltsters; starting with barley breeding, to growing, to selection, to storage and handling, then malting, and finally, brewing. The whole cycle is important for us to understand so that we can successfully facilitate craft goodness from field to glass.
We are just now entering into the fundraising phase for this new operation. We hope to start malting by late fall this year. Stay tuned for more news as this all progresses, as well as for ways to be involved!
If you are so interested in this project that you would like to be connected, and help fund it, you can! Go to our Community Sourced Capital campaign to loan us funds before June 1st.